Thinking Outside The Box
Having entered the real estate photography market in the era of film, Brad Filliponi has not only seen the industry grow into the digital age, he and his business partner Mel Myers are driving the next generation with an innovative concept gaining worldwide traction.
The sporadic rain and overcast weather is creating an unforeseen hurdle at our photo shoot with Brad Filliponi and Mel Myers. As Brad poses in front of the porthole leading into the upstairs pool, the incredible visual effect just isn’t translating through the camera lens.
“We can edit these photos so you can see the water through the porthole, we can also make the sky blue if you want,” says Brad, as he flashes a brilliant smile.
At first I thought it was ironic, here we are meeting with these two entrepreneurs to write about their burgeoning business and have inadvertently required their services; but on second thought, it’s an example of them identifying an opportunity and capitalising on it – I am purely witnessing entrepreneurs at work.
Brad conjured up the concept for Box Brownie five years ago, following a 15-year career as a real estate photographer.
“I never really knew I wanted to do photography and fell into it. I wanted to do a TAFE course when I finished school and picked up a camera that was given to me, had a bit of fun with it and ended up working for one of the biggest photographers on the Coast,” says Brad.
“He specialised in weddings and was also the premium real estate photographer, nobody was doing it and he said it was a good thing to get into, a bit of a niche, so I built my network up.
I started shooting real estate photography on film, not many people can say that, that’s how long I’ve been in the game for. Now I’m at the forefront of this tech piece.”
Shooting nine locations a day and editing late into the night, Brad was overworked and looked at outsourcing his photo editing; a scary step for a creative to take.
Instead, he wound up building two prototypes of his own outsourcing service and soon met Mel, who has been responsible for the rapid evolution of the online platform.
Originally from London, Mel and his family moved to the Sunshine Coast when he was nine years old. He then became Australia’s youngest university student, starting his studies at the age of 12 in statistics, computer programming and discrete mathematics.
When Mel was 14, he started full time study and was part of the first intake at the University of the Sunshine Coast.
“At school, I finished maths earlier and then picked up physics, and then picked up chemistry, so I was across quite a few grades. I didn’t technically finish Year 10 or Year 12 because you need a certain number of subjects and a certain number of years, so I had to finish my uni degree because I’m technically unqualified otherwise,” he says.
Since the age of 17, Mel has owned and run a number of successful businesses in the technology sector. He has also created a number of applications including a search engine in 1995, an online driven manufacturing facility, accounting systems, and a warehouse management system.
“I’m very much of the view towards taking existing or new systems and processes and making them as efficient as possible, but at the same time tying that into general business and making sure it all works,” he says.
Brad and Mel offer editing services and skills that are wide and varied, from CGI rendering to enhancements including turning external property photos from day to dusk, and adding virtual furniture to rooms or removing unwanted clutter.
It’s our job to make a real estate agent or a developer’s phone ring; with marketing, social media and websites, you only have a few seconds to capture your audience and if your image doesn’t pop, there’s a good chance they’ll be looking at your opposition,” says Brad.
“We get sent images from all around the world, we’ve hit quite a few countries now which is really great for a little Sunshine Coast startup.”
In November last year, Box Brownie was selected to present at Inman Connect’s Startup Alley in New York, a week-long event introducing the world’s newest companies on the real estate tech scene.
“People look to Inman as the go-to for what’s happening in real estate technology, if you want to know the future of real estate in America, you go to Inman,” says Brad.
Given Brad and Mel are Sunshine Coast locals, they tested the market here in Australia first, before split testing with Australia, United Kingdom, United States and Canada.
“We did some advertising in some of the different markets and the US had a much better response rate for the dollars and effort we put into it, so we pushed that barrier further and the flood gates opened,” says Mel.
“Most of our business is now over in the US and as of August last year we’ve started doing conferences over there. There are only so many people you can touch doing other forms of marketing, so when you do these conferences you have thousands of people.”
Brad and Mel have booked conferences and meetings in the States every month this year. Just to give you a glimpse into their hectic schedule, two days before our interview they returned from a trip to California, Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada, and in three days they’re bound for Florida. Seattle is also on the cards and they’ve been invited to Brazil by the owner of Remax.
With a winning product on their hands, Brad and Mel are continuously looking for the next evolution, which Mel says is still within the outsourcing model, but branching outside of the real estate sector to offer a wider range of services.
Talk about thinking outside the box!